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Journey To A Dream

In May 2002 my wife and I journeyed from Huddersfield in England's industrial north to rural Galicia. Join us on our journey and immerse your senses in the sights, sounds, and tastes of this remote and little known region of Spain.

Fittest Corpse in the Cemetery
25 June 2014

An excursion to Lugo, our provincial capital, usually spells trouble. As the administrative centre of the province of Lugo, most official undertakings are resolved there. However; as anyone who has lived in Spain will tell you, the wheels of Spanish bureaucracy turn immeasurably slowly and often slip a gear and judder into reverse. Thankfully, today’s visit did not involve officialdom: today’s trip was purely for pleasure.

The walled city of Lugo and its magnificent cathedral

Compared to our home village of Canabal with a population of less than 100, Lugo, with a populous approaching 100,000, feels like a sophisticated and cosmopolitan metropolis. But despite being the fourth largest city in Galicia, it has managed to maintain a warm and inviting atmosphere. Credit for this must surely go to its 3rd century roman wall. Protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site, it is the only roman wall in existence that remains fully intact: completely encircling the old town and giving the city centre that small town feel.

Over recent years, our travelling time to Lugo has been slashed. Once the new C546 link road is completed it will take a mere half an hour. Where the money comes from to build these superb new highways I have no idea. I’m just grateful for stress-free motoring along traffic-free highways.

On reaching Lugo we parked in the underground car park opposite the Porta do Bispo Izquierdo entrance to the old town. In total, there are ten gates or Portas through the ramparts. We strolled through the gate, turned right and within 100 metres found the access steps up onto the wall.

From here one gets a real sense of the enormity and wonder of these 1700 year old defences. I suspect its longevity is due in part to the materials used in its construction. The wall is built mainly from local slate. These flat and irregular stones are extremely hard wearing and of little recyclable value.

The weather was perfect for a gentle stroll around the town: clear blue skies and hardly a breath of wind. A full circuit of the wall is just over two kilometres: the perfect distance to build up an appetite before lunch. Within minutes of beginning our stroll, an older, yet muscular looking gent; shirt off and chest exposed, came dashing towards us. In the blink of an eye he’d sprinted past. Before we’d completed our single circuit, this ageing jogger had zipped past us another four times. I couldn’t help thinking what pleasure he must garner from the knowledge that he may very well outlive his peers and go on to claim the title of, ‘The fittest corpse in the cemetery’.

The Praza Maior in the heart of the old town is a great place to dine. A number of restaurants line one side of this picturesque square. On this occasion we decided to lunch at one of my favourite Lugo eateries, Cambalache located just outside the ancient walls.  It’s an Italian bistro with a twist. Their dishes are inspired by Italian immigrants settling in Argentina during the early part of the twentieth century. For us this is a real treat but hopefully, when the new highway is complete, our visits to Lugo will become more frequent.

Vine Watch – week 12

Humid summer storms have brought more wind damage to the vines and the occasional short but heavy shower has meant more frequent fungicide spraying to prevent the growth of mildew.

On the whole the vines are looking healthy. Most have now flowered and some of the young grapes are the size of garden peas. They even look and feel like them: rock hard and pea-green.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

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Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



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Boat Trips and Broomsticks
18 June 2014

Last week, my mother-in-law came to stay. She flew in to Santiago on Ryanair, apparently her broomstick was in for a service. Only joking; she’s a lovely woman. Her visit gave us an excuse to indulge in one of our favourite tourist attractions: a boat trip along the river Sil.

When we first moved to Galicia, one captain plied his trade on the river. At the last count, six boats offered trips through the spectacular Canyon of the river Sil. One of the best, and our favourite, is operated by a young couple Alex and his partner Keka. They own a small activity centre called Turismo en la Ribeira Sacra.

Their vessel is a small pontoon boat accommodating ten guests. It’s a far more personal and intimate service than the larger vessels working the river. Alex’s knowledge of the canyon, and his willingness to relay it in English, gives him an edge over his rivals. A taste of the local wine, as you drift past the riverside vineyards, doesn’t harm either.

‘Don’t forget the wine,’ I called to Melanie as we left the house.

On our last trip down the river I’d promised Alex that I would bring a bottle of my own wine for him to taste. Before establishing his tourist business he used to work at the wine museum in Monforte de Lemos and has an extensive knowledge of the local wines.

The boat departs from a small jetty at Os Chancis. The weather could hardly have been more perfect for river cruising: a cloudless blue sky, bright sunshine and hardly a breath of wind. With everyone aboard, eight including Alex, we set off upstream.

The river canyon was formed by an earthquake, millions of years ago. With a little imagination, I could almost feel the earth fracturing as we floated along. The river is 300 metres above sea level with some of the surrounding peaks rising to over 1,300 metres. This creates a micro-climate within the canyon; sheltered from the harsh extremes of the Galician weather.

The two sides of the canyon are very distinctive and create a natural border between two provinces. To the north is Lugo province and to the south Ourense. The sunny, south facing slopes provide excellent conditions for vine growing whereas the north facing slopes are covered in forests. It’s said that because of the zones unique climate, every species of tree grown in Spain can be, and some say is, grown on the north facing slopes.

These near vertical valley sides provide some of the most dangerous and inaccessible vineyards in the world.

‘One vineyard in Castile and La Mancha, with one tractor and six workers, can produce as much wine as 3000 families in the Ribeira Sacra,’ states Alex.

As we drifted quietly along the river, Alex’s narrative provided an informative and interesting accompaniment.

‘Would you like to sample the wine?’ he asked.

‘Today Alex, you can sample my wine,’ I replied.

I popped the cork and Alex supplied the plastic cups. I poured and handed them out. Using the palm of his hand, Alex rolled the cup along the dashboard of the boat. By now I was becoming a little nervous. He held the cup in his hand and swirled its inky red contents around before checking its nose. I hadn’t expected such a thorough examination.

‘You have oaked the wine?’ he asked.

Crickey! I thought to myself. He hadn’t taken a sip but knew from its subtle aroma that I’d oaked it.

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘I use oak chips from France.’

He raised the cup to his lips; I held my breath. A short pause followed while he savoured the flavours on his palate.

‘Excellent wine,’ he said, ‘as good as any of the bodegas in the area,’ he added.

Relief cleared the lump in my throat and I took a gulp of cool air.

I managed to contain my elation on the return journey home; even the arduous climb back to the car floated away on a wave of smug self-satisfaction.

Enjoy your own relaxing boat trip along the river Sil in this short video.

Vine Watch- week 11

All the vines are now in full bloom or have already flowered. Everyday the foliage grows at an alarming rate. The excellent weather of the past week has seen to that. Nipping off the side shoots and keeping the foliage under control is a daily task. As the sun begins to set, I stroll around the vineyard nipping here and tucking there. It’s very relaxing: some people fish; I nip and tuck.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

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Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 11:25   Comments (0)


Weighing up the Options
11 June 2014

On Saturday morning Melanie wandered out of the dressing room carrying a pile of dirty washing.

‘I’ll just pop these in the washer before I make a cuppa,’ she said, closing the bedroom door behind her.

This, lengthier than usual, absence gave me the opportunity I’d been waiting for. Without delay I jumped out of bed and pulled the bathroom scales out from under the shoe cupboard. Some time ago, we’d invested in a set of digital scales. The old ones were hopeless.

Fearing the worst, I’d decided that a private weigh-in was preferable to public humiliation. I tapped the top of the scales with my toe and waited for the digital display to show three zeros. Nervously, I stepped on. The display jumped slightly before coming to a halt.

That can’t be right, I thought to myself.

I stepped off quickly; waited for the display to go blank and tapped the top once more. Three zeros appeared. Carefully, I stepped back on.

Surely not, I thought, perhaps there’s a bit of fluff under the pads.

I stepped back off and picked them up. The only points of contact with the floor are four small rubber pads: one on each corner. All had a little fluff stuck to the rubber. I brushed it off with my finger and set the scales back down.

Confident of a better result, I tapped the top of the scales and stepped on. I couldn’t believe it, not the slightest change. I even tried removing my glasses to see if that would make a difference; but then I couldn’t see the damn display. Save for amputation, there was only one solution. Just then I heard the kitchen door close and the tinkle of a teaspoon. Quickly, I pushed the scales back under the shoe cupboard and jumped into bed.

There’s only one thing for it, I thought to myself, it’s out with the bike. Surely a bit of physical exercise will rectify the situation.

Later that morning I broached the subject.

‘I think I’ll go for a ride on my bike this afternoon,’ I said nonchalantly.

‘O.K.’ replied Melanie, oblivious to my secret weigh-in.

Both our bikes are stored down the side of the house, resting comfortably on their stand. With the cobwebs brushed away, I pressed my thumb into the tyres. Unsurprisingly, they both felt a little spongy. From that point on, things went decidedly downhill: just using the foot-pump to inflate them put me out of breath. Twice around the patio, to test the brakes, and I was ready for off: full of enthusiasm, if a little low on energy.

The lane in front of the house is on a slight incline. Determined to burn-off some calories I set off up the lane. As I neared the brow of the hill my leg muscles felt like they were about to explode.

About halfway through my fat-fighting challenge, the cheeks of my bum began to complain. A little further and my, ‘gentlemen’s bits’ felt like they’d fallen off. A quick check put my mind at ease but did nothing for the blood circulation. By the time I’d completed the 10 kilometre ride my backside felt like the flesh had rubbed away and my bones were grating on the so called gel-filled saddle.

Gasping for air I pushed open the gate and parked the bike. Gently, I lowered myself into a cushioned garden chair and contemplated the summer ahead.

Why is it that most things that are bad for you taste good and most that are good for you feel bad? Someone somewhere has a cruel sense of humour.

Vine Watch- week 10

Midweek storms have taken their toll but thankfully the casualty figures weren’t too high. The photo shows three of the many withered shoots, broken by the high winds. On the bright side, most of the vines have started flowering. Once that’s over, my little pearls will begin to swell, on their long journey to ripeness.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit their website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



Like 0        Published at 11:14   Comments (0)


Digital Exposure – Springtime in Galicia a Photo Blog
04 June 2014

These are some of my favourite snaps from April and May. There are 15 in all. I’d love to hear which your favourite 3 are. Why not post a comment and let me know.

 

Number 1 - April began with a spectacular display of cherry blossom, both white and pink. We’re extremely fortunate that our neighbour José has an orchard full of both.

 

Number 2 - The medieval fair came to town during April. Giant street jesters, atop tall stilts, entertained the crowds of onlookers.

 

Number 3 - At this time of year the river Cabe is at its height. Here the afternoon sunshine illuminates the Photinia Red Robin hedge as the river drifts slowly under the Romanesque bridge in the centre of Monforte de Lemos.

 

Number 4 - The unseasonably warm weather brings Spanish tigers out of hibernation. Until their wings have dried their survival is in the lap of the Gods; or in this case the tip of my fingers.

 

Number 5 - Spain’s second most visited tourist attraction – The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Even essential repairs can’t mask the majesty of this magnificent building.

 

Number 6 - El Escolapios in Monforte de Lemos: a small town with a big heart.

 

Number 7 - A blushing beauty in the centre of town.

 

Number 8 - Where legions dare to tread. The ancient Roman wall of Lugo city with the cathedral dominating the skyline.

 

Number 9 - Letting life float by on a relaxing boat trip along the river Sil. To the left the province of Ourense and to the right Lugo.

 

Number 10 - A roof with a view – Not quite on top of the world but certainly on top of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

 

Number 11 - I’ll be your dog. If he had a euro for every snap, this Lugo city pooch would be a millionaire.

 

Number 12 - The lilac toned mountains of Galicia – Someone should write a song.

 

Number 13 - The only way is down from the cathedral roof in Santiago de Compostela.

 

Number 14 - The sun angles down a narrow city street in Lugo town centre.

 

Number 15 - I’m just nipping down the local for a pint, anyone fancy coming?

Vine Watch – week 9

The garnacha vines have started flowering. Surprisingly, they’re the first to flower and the last to ripen. Cluster thinning is now a priority. Studies have shown that thinning after the vine has flowered has no beneficial effects on the harvest. Cluster thinning before flowering leads to higher quality grapes and speeds ripening.

 

Copyright © 2014 Craig Briggs

*************************************************************************

Craig and Melanie own and operate a luxury farmhouse rental property called Campo Verde. To find out more about a stay at Campo Verde and Galicia in general, visit our website getaway-galicia

Craig’s book, Journey To A Dream, is available exclusively from Amazon, to purchase your copy click here for your national Amazon store.

Find out more about Craig, and Galicia or look him up on Facebook



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